The Christmas Heatwave That Turned Wisconsin Into a Balmy Paradise

Skyscrapers in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sandra Lund/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Joyce Nash

Published: December 22, 2023

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Wisconsin is the snowmobile capital of the world thanks to its consistently cold and snowy winters. However, not every year brings a white Christmas to the state. Keep reading to learn about Wisconsin’s warmest Christmas ever.

Skyscrapers in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wisconsin often sees cold winter weather due to its proximity to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

Average Weather in Wisconsin

Located in the Midwestern United States, Wisconsin is bordered by two Great Lakes: Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Wisconsin’s proximity to these bodies of water, combined with its lack of mountains, leaves the state vulnerable to large masses of frigid air from the north during the winter months. During the summer, the state is open to warm air masses traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico which bring warm, humid weather to the area.

In the southern region of the state, Madison sees average high temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months and average low temperatures around 15 degrees during the winter. In December, the city sees an average of 14 inches of snow. Farther north, in Eau Claire, average summer high temperatures reach around 80 degrees, while low temperatures in the winter can drop to 10 degrees. Eau Claire sees an average of 10 inches of snow during December.

Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin downtown street view with parked cars and Wisconsin state capitol building glowing in the blizzard night. Wisconsin state, Midwest USA. Beautiful snowy winter night.

Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, has about a 40% chance of a white Christmas.

Chances of a White Christmas

To be officially considered a “white Christmas,” there must be at least one inch of accumulated snow on Christmas morning. In Wisconsin, the chances of a white Christmas range from from 40-100%, depending on the area of the state. Based on historical data, the probability of a white Christmas in Madison and other southern areas of the state is about 40%.

Wisconsin has experienced Christmas blizzards, such as in 1983 and 2012. In 1983, some areas saw 20 inches of snow on the ground and high temperatures of only 1 degree. In 2012, La Nina weather patterns brought cold, wet weather to Wisconsin. That year, some areas saw 22 inches of snow during a winter storm that caused widespread damage and power outages.

Winter in the center of Milwaukee

Wisconsin typically sees several days of below-freezing temperatures each year.

Wisconsin’s Warmest Christmas

While Wisconsin usually sees cold, snowy weather for Christmas, temperatures in the state have risen by about 2 degrees since the start of the 20th century. Although current temperatures are trending upwards, historical data reveals record-breaking high Christmas temperatures in Wisconsin’s past.

In 1889, La Crosse had a high temperature of 61 degrees for Christmas Day. However, the Christmas heatwave of 1982 is still alive in many Wisconsinites’ memories. That year, Milwaukee saw its warmest Christmas on record with a high temperature of 61 degrees. News reports show residents took the opportunity to enjoy unseasonal activities like golfing and al fresco dining for their Christmas meal.

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About the Author

Joyce Nash is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel and geography. She has almost a decade of writing experience. Her background ranges from journalism to farm animal rescues and spans the East Coast to the West. She is based in North Carolina, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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